« السابقةمتابعة »
peror, nor of the Archbishop could hush the yell of derision and rage that rang along the walls. The prisoner next in order turned round, and spat on the place where Isidore had been kneeling; and then, folding his arms, bowed his head to the sword, and with his companion on the other side, closed the catalogue of victims.
"Thank GOD it was not a Latin!" cried Cardinal Isidore.
"You might have spared the insult," said the Archbishop of Chalcedon. "I might reply-"
"The taunt is unworthy of any reply save silence," said Constantine. 'My Lord Curopalata, you will superintend the execution of these unfortunate men, waiting, however, till we have returned. Come, my lords. Sir Edward de Rushton, we have occasion for you at the Palace."
EXCEPT a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit. "That corn," says Bede, "was the LORD Himself. He, Himself of the seed of the Patriarchs, was sown in the field of the world, that by dying He might rise again with increase. He died alone; He rose again with many."
Now compare this passage from S. John's Gospel with S. Mark iv. 26, 27, and you will see that though this parable of "THE SEED may be considered, as we will afterwards consider.it, in the sense of God's grace falling
on our hearts, producing in us insensibly good desires, and enabling us to bring the same to good effect, yet that its chief object, was, like that which precedes it, prophetical-in that it typified the growth of CHRIST'S kingdom on earth—THE CHURCH.
First, let us connect it with the prophetical parable that precedes it. CHRIST's kingdom was about to be established in the world. It was not to rise like earthly kingdoms, originating from a definite centre, limited by recognized boundaries, which were to be extended by conquest, treaties, and alliances, so that the small kingdom, should not properly speaking grow, but be constructed into a large empire. This, which the Jews might and did expect, was not to be the rise and progress of GOD's kingdom. It might have been; a religious empire certainly is capable of construction after this manner; witness the rise and progress of Mohammedanism; but it was not to be so here. Though the LORD was pleased to avail Himself of human means for the extension of His kingdom, He would not thus work by them exclusively. Had the increase of the Church been like that of human kingdoms, the Hand of God would not have been so undeniably and evidently present in it.
The rise of CHRIST's kingdom therefore was to be a growth, not a construction; and this is clearly shown in the Book of Daniel, where the kingdoms of the earth are represented as portions of a constructed image; while the kingdom of GOD in the same vision, though it is called a "stone cut out of a mountain," inasmuch as it was severed from what was apparently a larger whole, is yet emphatically described as having been cut without hands, that is to say, without human intervention; and is then said, not to have been added to, but to have grown (as if of itself) and filled the whole earth.
And accordingly we do find, that though it originated in Jerusalem (cut out of it, not taking the whole even of that,) yet that it was not added to by extending the bounds of Judea, as the Jews themselves expected, but that in the course of a very few years it burst forth simultaneously in the most opposite and unconnected places, reminding us of that very remarkable passage in the Book of Wisdom, where the souls of the righteous are said not only to shine and to be like stars, but "to run to and fro like sparks in the stubble;" that is to say like a general conflagration (a very common thing among the rushy stubbles of Syria) which seems to break out in hundreds of unconnected places, all drawing together and combining their separate fires to swell the general blaze.
But for all that, portions of the world, whether we speak of them territorially as Troas and Macedonia, or personally, as Nicodemus and Caiaphas, men living in the world, were some more and some less fitted to receive it. Hence the parable of the sower casting the same seed over soil of various qualities. This was an announcement to the disciples, to whom alone it was explained, of the detached and unequal effect of their future operations, a lesson which was shortly afterwards taught them practically, when in their typical mission through the Holy Land two and two, they were shown that all would not receive the kingdom proclaimed to all, that there were some houses in which the son of peace was and on which the blessing would rest, and some in which he was not and from which the blessing would return void; some villages in which he who proclaimed the glad tidings would be persecuted, and some in which he would be received with gladness.
But upon the whole their labours, like those of their
Master, were to human eyes fruitless and discouraging. We, who see these labours from their results, we, who see from church history, and especially from that part of it called the Acts of the Apostles, what may be called the bright side of their work, can form but a faint conception of the discouragements which attended the present work of the Church's earliest missionaries. Not only downright persecution and martyrdom, which at all events are grand and exciting; but contempt, which is far harder to bear up against, and want of success, labour as it were to no end, and still more the faintheartedness and desertion of friends. How much more do we gather of S. Paul's difficulties from an accidental mention of them in his second epistle to the Corinthians than the direct history in the Acts of the Apostles would give us the faintest idea of. But all of it, stripes, stoning, perils; all of it is easier to bear with a hopeful mind than that state of desertion which he speaks of in his second epistle to Timothy," Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed into Thessalonica, Crescens into Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia; only Luke is with me. At my first answer no man stood with me, but all forsook
This then is the first stage in the growth of CHRIST'S kingdom. The sower has sowed his seed: it has fallen upon all sorts of soil alike; but for the present in all cases, whether it has fallen upon good or bad soil, it is covered and hidden from the sight of men. This is the state alluded to by our SAVIOUR, when He speaks of the corn of wheat falling into the ground and dying. This is the state referred to by S. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians, when he says, "That which thou sowest is not quickened except it die;" this is the state illustrated by our LORD's death, and by our own death,
as a necessary prelude to rising again. As with man, so with his works. The seed must be covered before it can spring. "In the sight of the unwise it seems to die, and its departure to be taken for misery, and its going from us to be utter destruction."
Here then comes in the second parable. Our LORD now reveals what shall become of the seed when it is sown. The second parable is a consolation for the inevitable necessity which follows the fulfilment of the first. The first then must be understood as disclosing the description of ground upon which the seed must fall; the latter the fate of the seed itself.
This parable you observe was not proclaimed to the multitude; they had no need of it; they had themselves no desire either to receive seed or to sow it. To them its fate after it was sowed would have been neither a consolation nor an encouragement. Had they believed it, which they would not, it would have been to them simply the gratifying of an idle curiosity.
The LORD, therefore, took His disciples apart, and explained to them that the Church would be as if a man were to cast seed into the ground "and should sleep," that is, cease from active work, and "rise night and day," that is, watch its progress narrowly, though without being able to assist the process of germination. Theophylact indeed says, that the Great First Sower Himself "sleeps, that is, ascends to Heaven, where though He seems to sleep (that is, to take no active part in the progress of His work) He yet rises night and day; by night when He raises us up through temptation to the knowledge of Himself; and in the day time when on account of our prayers He sets in order our salvation." But the next sentence applies rather to man whose knowledge is limited, than to GOD Who sees all things;